The 13 Best Jenna Ortega Movie Moments, Ranked

The 13 Best Jenna Ortega Movie Moments, Ranked

Jenna Ortega is a force to be reckoned with. The young starlet began her career with several bit parts in TV and movies in the early 2010s. By the middle of the decade, she enjoyed a stint on the "Richie Rich" series and appearances in "The Cookie Mobster" and "After Words." But it wasn't until her role as young Jane in "Jane the Virgin" that she began to turn a few heads. Then, in 2019, she starred as Ellie in Netflix's soapy crime drama "You," in which she dished up a star-turning performance. She went from promising talent to superstar overnight, so it's no wonder that she's become a household name. Everyone wants to work with her.

In the four years since her game-changing TV gig, she's landed roles in countless more projects, including Ti West's retro-slasher "X," the Dave Grohl-backed "Studio 666," and the award-nominated, Tim Burton-directed "Wednesday" series on Netflix. What has set Ortega head and shoulders over her contemporaries is her range and how she approaches the material she's given. Whether she needs to deliver a comedic monologue with panache or demonstrate the brokenness of the human spirit, she takes great care in offering layered and complex performances that go beyond what is simply written on the page. Ortega is only a decade into her career, yet she's amassed a body of work that any other actor should envy. Come with us as we take a stroll through her 12 best on-screen movie moments.

Finally Being Heard (Yes Day)

Katie (Jenna Ortega) isn't being heard. She feels trapped in her life and just wants to hang out with her friends. When planning to attend the music festival Fleekfest, her mother Allison (Jennifer Garner) refuses to let Katie go unless she comes with her. Of course, that's the least ideal scenario. As the family enjoys their yes day, on which the parents must say yes to their kids' every request, Allison snoops on Katie's phone and finds a photo of boys texted to her from her best friend Layla (Megan Stott). She blows up on Katie, who finally says everything she's been wanting to say: "You really don't trust me..." 

In an otherwise simply fun movie, it's a weighted, emotional zinger that hits to the core of the film — kids are people, too. Katie is just a teen, trying to navigate raging hormones, social pressures, and being a daughter. Allison's strict parenting clouds her judgment and she is unable to see both her kids aren't being heard. It takes Katie's monologue for things to finally click into place. "What's happening here is I don't need you anymore, and you can't handle it!" Katie continues. It's harsh but not untrue.

"Yes Day" is silly, yet it has a tremendous amount of heart. For her part, Jenna Ortega delivers the monologue with gusto, a contrast to many entries on this list. She has such a magnetic presence that every word has power and directly transmits to the viewer. Unbelievably, this only scratches the surface of what Ortega is capable of as a performer. 

You're Only Young Once (X)

Moments before Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow) performs a stirring rendition of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide," Lorraine questions the morality of doing porn and falling in love. "How can you love someone and still be with other people?" she asks. Maxine (Mia Goth) responds: "Take it from me. Letting outdated traditions control how you live your life will get you nowhere." She then reminds Lorraine that the heart wants what it wants when it comes to an attraction versus love. Lorraine then admits she "did like what I saw today. I didn't think I would but I did."

Following the acoustic performance, Lorraine drops the bombshell that she wants to do a scene in the movie. Her boyfriend RJ (Owen Campbell) argues against it, saying that they've already shot most of the movie. "I don't just want to carry the equipment, I want to be in it," Lorraine offers. Ortega exhibits a brilliant serpent's tongue performance, slithering from line to line with an inescapable sting. "When did you become such a prude?" she soon whispers, flipping the script on what RJ told her earlier in the film.

Ortega could give a sterling reading of a phone book. When given such a tight script, she fills each beat with profound intention. As it relates to questions on sexual liberation and self-power, it's necessary to have a performance with such gravitas. Ortega more than meets the challenge, though other moments on this list showcase her talents even more. 

To Die For (Studio 666)

Jenna Ortega appears in less than five minutes of this film but leaves an indelible mark. In "Studio 666," Ortega plays Skye Willow, a rock musician who gets murdered by an unknown assailant. The opening scene is set in 1993 inside a lavish Encino mansion. The camera pans inside, and Skye's muffled cries can be heard. Ortega has such a specific tone to her crying that you immediately know it's her.

With bones sticking out of her thigh, Skye crawls through the front room. Her face contorts in pain as she writhes in blood. "Why? We did everything!" she pleads to the killer. Soon enough, a hammer cracks into her skull. Dying in a horror movie is far more difficult than you'd think. Much like in "Scream," Ortega has a way of relaying the fear to the audience in such a way that it breaks your heart. "Studio 666" is no exception.

As we learn later in the film, the mansion is often used by musicians to record. With their forthcoming 10th studio album, the Foo Fighters hole up in the exact same mansion in the present. They soon find themselves in a similar situation; a dark entity comes to collect the price they must pay for recording music. Frontman Dave Grohl becomes possessed and chaos ensues. A simple enough premise in a film that offers little else. Fortunately, Ortega gives credibility to the film with a performance that kicks you right in the chest. This moment ranks this low, however, due to Ortega's overall lack of screen time in the feature that frankly could have used more of her. 

The Babadook (Scream)

Jenna Ortega's Tara Carpenter gets attacked not once, not twice, but three times in 2022's "Scream." She's initially set up as the opening kill (more on that later) but survives. In the hospital, Ghostface attacks again. Then, in the finale, she finds herself in the crosshairs of Amber and Richie. It's hard to imagine how she survived, but Tara is one tough cookie. She won't go down without a fight — or three.

When things hit the fan in the third act, Amber knocks her unconscious. Through the second killer reveal and the action-packed ending, Tara is MIA for the rest of the film until she recovers and fires a single shot into a very charred Amber, who wields a knife much like her character in "Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood." Gun sizzling, Ortega serves up her most iconic line with "I still prefer The Babadook," a callback to the opening in which she says she prefers "elevated horror" films like "The Babadook" as opposed to "schlocky nonsense with wall-to-wall jump scares."

Ortega's delivery of the line is straightforward, yet her lip quivers to allow just enough emotion to slide out. That's the thing about Ortega; she knows exactly what scenes require. When it needs to be a quieter moment, such as this one, she gives the audience the right amount of emotional heft without overdoing it. There's stillness in her performance, and that's the mark of a great actor.

Dance Your Heart Out (The Babysitter: Killer Queen)

Jenna Ortega plays the too-cool-for-school type in "The Babysitter: Killer Queen." She wears heart-shaped glasses and her hair in pigtails. Rumors swirl that she killed her parents, giving her a bad girl street edge. As Cole (Judah Lewis) is also an outcast — no one believes the events of the first film actually happened — the two strike up an unexpected romance.

While they're being hunted by Melanie (Emily Alyn Lind) and her cronies, as well as returning characters like Bella Thorne's Allison, Cole and Phoebe hunker down in the basement of a secluded cabin on the lake. It was once her family's cabin, so Phoebe still has an emotional attachment to it. The pair draw closer as they bond over their trauma and eventually hook up. When they kiss, the film cuts away to a dance sequence that's just plain hilarious. Ortega shows off her dance moves to The Sugarhill Gang's version of "Apache (Jump on It)," and it's a wild time, with the actor displaying a very different side to her work.

"The Babysitter: Killer Queen" never reaches the campy heights of the first film, but Ortega is a shining light for the sequel. There's always something about her on-screen presence that immerses the audience in the world the movie creates. Even as goofy as the dance is, it's a standout moment that's sure to make anyone laugh.

Trapped In The Basement (X)

Unlike her character in "Scream," a genre savant, Jenna Ortega's Lorraine is a lamb to the slaughter. She doesn't make the best decisions in a film that harkens back to '70s slashers like "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre." When she follows Howard's (Stephen Ure) instructions to go down into the basement to grab a flashlight, you know she's in for a world of hurt. She ends up locked in the basement and soon uncovers a mutilated body hanging from the rafters, blood and guts spilled across the concrete floor. Upon discovery, Ortega lets out a blood-curdling scream. It stops you in your tracks and makes you pay attention — you have no other choice.

Later, Lorraine tries to escape her underground prison by using a small ax to shop away at the door, but she gets two fingers blown off when Howard discovers her plot. Lorraine cowers away, letting out blubbering cries for help. Ortega tears your heart out with every scream, like taking an icepick and digging it into your chest. The entire sequence is slasher perfection, from the scream heard around the world to her (somewhat) survivable injury. As always, the actor transmits her fear and vulnerability right through the camera.

Nine Days Late (The Babysitter: Killer Queen)

Jenna Ortega's Phoebe gives real punk-rock girl energy when she enters the classroom. Not only is she the new girl, but her presence fills the space. The teacher brings her to the front of the room, revealing that Phoebe is part of the Guardian Angel Program for "disenfranchised youths from juvenile hall." 

The teacher then asks Phoebe to list three things about herself. "I think snakes are the most misunderstood reptiles," she begins. She then shares that her favorite film switches between "Deliverance" and "anything by Rob Reiner." The kicker comes with a joke about her period. "I'm nine days late," she beams, removing her heart sunglasses. "I was on the fence, but I think I might keep it now, because looking at all of your beautiful faces ... I'm just so overcome with optimism for our future. I just want to f***ing scream."

And goodness does she scream. It echoes down the hallway, punctuating one of the best character introductions in a slasher film. The Cramps' "The Way I Walk" continues thumping through the speakers as she makes her way to her seat, all eyes full of trepidation for what she might do next. She's a loose cannon, that's for sure. Ortega's comedic timing in this scene is underrated; she smartly lets the jokes sit for a beat or two before plowing ahead to the next one. Comedy is often harder to land than dramatic readings, and Ortega excels at both. Surprise, surprise.

Scariest Day Of Her Life (The Fallout)

"The Fallout" is Jenna Ortega's finest overall performance. In the aftermath of a school shooting, her character Vada struggles to cope and finds herself turning to drugs, booze, and sex to numb the pain of losing her classmates. She grows increasingly distant from her family and younger sister Amelia (Lumi Pollack). Instead, she befriends influencer and classmate Mia (Maddie Ziegler). They could not be more different, but they bond over shared trauma, effectively helping each other navigate feelings of anger, sadness, and guilt.

Late one night, Amelia creeps into Vada's room because she can't sleep. She slips into bed and finally has a long overdue conversation about what's happened. Amelia blames herself for texting Vada and confesses she's scared to go to school. She goes on to ask why Vada has been so angry with her recently. She first holds back the tears but quickly lets them cascade down her face. Vada tells her she's not mad but barely holding things together. It was "the scariest moment of my life," she confides. It's such a quiet moment, you could hear a pin drop.

"The Fallout" depicts far more than the immediate effects of a shooting on survivors; the outward ripples do just as much damage. Vada falls apart, and her struggles have a domino effect on the family, tearing them apart in the process. Ortega delivers her lines with such profound weight, it's like detonating a bomb in the air. Expect more moments from "The Fallout" in our top 5 picks. 

If you have been impacted by incidents of mass violence, or are experiencing emotional distress related to incidents of mass violence, you can call or text Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 for support.

Dawn's Best Friend (Saving Flora)

In 2018's "Saving Flora," Jenna Ortega stars as Dawn, the daughter of circus ringleader Henry (David Arquette). Dawn works in the traveling circus as a performer and wrangler to an elephant named Flora, now more than 50 years old. The stunts and tricks just don't come as easily as they once did. As a result, feeding and tending to Flora costs the circus even more than it otherwise would.

Henry plans to take Flora to an elephant reserve where she can roam, but when the reserve loses its federal funding, it appears there's no other option than to have Flora put down. Dawn catches wind of the news, and she lets her father know exactly how she feels. In a touching scene, Dawn approaches a bewildered Flora and nuzzles her trunk. Tears well up in her eyes before breaking down completely. Ortega shows such heartbreaking emotion, the viewer is able to feel it all, from anger to desperation and back again.

"Saving Flora" makes you care deeply about the bond between a young girl and an elephant. Throughout the film, the two grow even closer as they contend with the elements and two poachers hellbent on killing Flora to hang her head as a trophy. Ortega carries the film, emerging as the heart of the story. Without her masterful performance, the movie may not have worked as well as it does, and it's through her that the audience learns lessons on compassion, hope, and friendship.

A School Shooting (The Fallout)

With school shootings sadly being a normal occurrence in the United States, "The Fallout" depicts a catastrophic shooting and the aftermath. It's as timely a film as you might expect. The movie, thankfully, gives no screen time to the active shooter instead focusing solely on the survivors and how they suffer, emotionally and psychologically, from such a tragic event. Receiving a 9-1-1 text from her sister Amelia, Vada excuses herself from class and heads to the bathroom, where she meets Mia, her soon-to-be best friend.

While chatting over makeup, the shooter begins his reign of terror in the hallway. Mia and Vada take refuge in a nearby stall, hunkering over the toilet and hearing nothing but screams and the shower of bullets. Jenna Ortega's face wrenches in shock, disbelief, and unfiltered terror. It's one thing to read about a shooting in the news; it's something else entirely to experience it. It's through such traumatic circumstances that Vada and Mia's friendship is born. The rest of the film follows their journey to deal with what happened, process their emotions, and learn that numbing the pain is never a good thing.

"The Fallout" is quite an exquisite showcase for Ortega, who exhibits real power and finesse in the role. There's no way to walk away from this scene, or this film really, without knowing and fully believing Ortega is the next great actor of her generation.

If you have been impacted by incidents of mass violence, or are experiencing emotional distress related to incidents of mass violence, you can call or text Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 for support.

Fight For Her Life (Scream)

Everything about 2022's "Scream" reboot sequel (or requel) flips franchise rules on their head. It's a new generation, and there are new rules. The opening kill scene even gets a bit of an overhaul. The sequence unravels as one might anticipate with Jenna Ortega's Tara answering the phone and talking with the killer. Ghostface naturally makes her play a game, and she must guess bits of "Stab" trivia. She fails and is then brutally attacked, but she demonstrates a strong will to survive and won't go down without a fight. Ghostface hacks and slashes her stomach and right hand, and also stomps on her leg. It's really gruesome stuff. Before what is presumed the final stab, Tara crawls toward the patio windows, as police lights flash through the curtains. She lets out a single, "Help!" and Ghostface takes one final swipe at her face.

With every jab, Ortega makes you believe what is happening is real. Her performance is so grounded and brutal, it's enough to make you squirm in your seat. While she's certainly portrayed such peril in film before, there's something other-level about her turn in "Scream." And as far as franchise openers go, it competes with "Scream 2" as the second best, behind only the 1996 original.

Sebastian's Lies (Saving Flora)

Once fleeing the circus with Flora, Dawn befriends Sebastian (Martin Martinez), a young teen forced to do the bidding of well-known criminal Fernando (Massi Furlan). Law enforcement posts a handsome reward for the whereabouts and eventual rescue of Flora and Dawn. Sebastian is instructed to lure Dawn to Sabinas, where Fernando hopes to cash in on the prize money.

While being hunted by two poachers, Dawn, Sebastian, and Flora are forced to swim across a lake to safety. It takes its physical and emotional toll on the trio, and they then camp out for the night. After getting a good night's sleep, Dawn rolls awake with a renewed spirit. Sebastian's phone vibrates. When Dawn checks it, she sees a series of texts from Fernando. Sebastian's cover has been blown, and Dawn is noticeably crushed by this revelation. Sebastian expresses that he didn't mean to sleep so long, to which Dawn fully admits she already knows. "You were tired. Probably had a hard time falling asleep ... thinking about all that reward money." She chucks the phone on his chest. "You totally had me fooled," she says, beginning to weep.

Sebastian backpedals. "I want to help," he pleads. Dawn won't hear of it and demands he leave her sight. She tugs at her hair and completely loses it. Unlike other moments, there's an innocence to Ortega's performance. It's both fragile and imposing; her ability to make you feel deeply is impressive.

Therapy (The Fallout)

Throughout this list, it's clear Jenna Ortega's strength lies in delivering emotionally-pulverizing performances. But none compare to one particular scene in "The Fallout," in which she colors her performance with a subtlety that's unlike any other moment. During a therapy session, Vada expresses feeling as though her once-best friend Nick (Will Ropp) has taken his pain and is now changing the world. She feels guilty for not doing the same and notes how the shooting completely ruined their friendship. Even more, the shooter managed to mess up her life so hard in just six minutes. It's a devastating admission that the entire film leads up to.

Vada also admits to having survivor's guilt. While her friend Quinton (Niles Fitch) lost his brother, Vada didn't suffer any direct losses. Her loss comes from a mental breakdown; she lost a part of herself that fateful day, and there's no way to ever get it back. She's having a "really hard time moving on," she says. When given such great material, courtesy of writer-director Megan Park, Ortega can shade each moment with depth and brilliance. What could fall flat in anyone else's hands emerges as career-defining in hers. 

From roles in slasher flicks "Scream" and "X" to the devastating "The Fallout," there's nothing Ortega can't do. She understands every assignment she's given, and that's not easy to do. Her performances are nothing short of magnetic and signal that she has a very long career ahead of her.

If you have been impacted by incidents of mass violence, or are experiencing emotional distress related to incidents of mass violence, you can call or text Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 for support.

Read this next: The 14 Best Film Acting Debuts Of All Time

The post The 13 Best Jenna Ortega Movie Moments, Ranked appeared first on /Film.

Back to blog